Hacker Newsnew | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit | GeneTraylor's commentslogin

Whenever I see an easter island head, I can't help but draw parallels between our global civilization and theirs.

The eastern islanders consisted of around a dozen tribes, each competing for resources with others. It's thought that all of these statues were put up in a race by chieftains, competing with one another to put up the biggest, most refined and the best statue.

I wouldn't be surprised if they competed in their standards of life too. ("I eat X for breakfast, lunch and dinner!") I certainly wouldn't be surprised by the fact that they might have had political factions, special interests and a life rife with complicated political maneuvering. (it was certainly in the short term interests of statue makers to be against conservation and egg chieftains on)

After all we're the same species and they were just like us.

However what they failed to realize was the inescapable fact that they were living on a small piece of land in the middle of a vast ocean. Their seemingly inexhaustible resources were pitiful by any standards.

As time wore on and their population boomed, a point came when all of these factors came together. Their squandering of resources combined with their unsustainable way of life for a large population faced off with their limited resources, and the result was ugly. Their entire civilization collapsed.

Most of the population was lost to famine. Their civilization descended to cannibalism to survive. This degraded civilization became the perfect breeding ground for disease and even more people died. This cycle went on and on until their entire civilization was wiped out and the entire population nearly eradicated.

I shudder to think what it must have been like to live in this world. It must have been a nightmare.

Today like the eastern islanders with their statues, we keep on building taller and taller structures, better and more lethal weapons, and crazier systems. We compete with one another for status symbols at personal, regional and national levels.

Today we are just as isolated on this tiny blue ball, with a finite amount of resources, a booming population, combined with special interests and huge egos.

Like the eastern islanders we have nowhere to go...


That's a really captivating story with a strong message but it's far from obvious whether it happened, and whether it happened like you describe:


Especially the claims of cannibalism seem a little far fetched.


Interesting, he also posts a response by Jared Diamond: http://www.marklynas.org/2011/09/the-myths-of-easter-island-...

I had heard about the "JD is wrong, rats were the culprits" theory before and always wondered about JD's reaction.


I might be wrong, but I'm sure I read a detailed discussion somewhere about how they analyzed burial pits and found large amounts of cuts as if the flesh had been flayed and so on. Apparently they did detailed DNA analysis and even found human bone fragments in waste pits.

I can't seem to find that discussion online right now. However I did find a rebuttal by Jared Diamond on the same site to this argument;


On a side note I think that it is uncomfortable for us to think about the demise of everything we cherish in this way, and that's why we tend to shy away from discussing this more openly and rigorously.

It's interesting to see how the blog post I cited ended with the same note;

>>>The islanders did inadvertently destroy the environmental underpinnings of their society. They did so, not because they were especially evil or deprived of foresight, but because they were ordinary people, living in a fragile environment, and subject to the usual human problems of clashes between group interests, clashes between individual and group interests, selfishness, and limited ability to predict the future. Does that remind you of any problems that we ourselves face today? That’s why we find Easter’s story so gripping, and why it may offer us lessons. You’ll find good coverage in Bahn’s and Flenley’s new book.<<<


That's the response from Jared Diamond who wrote a book (mentioned in the comments below: "Collapse") with pretty much the same story as yours, of course it will end with a similar conclusion.


Yeah, I'm thinking about buying the book as soon as I have the spare cash.


Put your college professor mindset on, because you're going to need it.

For books about war, famine, disease, and horrible death, I find his books incredibly dry.


Jared Diamond tries to make sense of history in a methodical manner referring to researches done in diverse areas spawning evolutionary biology, archaeology, ecology etc. I would expect any such serious book (though targeted towards readers not steeped in diverse fields which he refers) would appear dry.


Hm. I don't think that's going to be a problem, it might take me a while to read his work, but that's okay. That said, I'm used to such books and a world rife with war, famine, disease and horrible death.


Ok, nice prose of your, but the tiny blue ball thing is bullshit. Any plane on window seat will show you that the Earth is enormous and empty for most it's parts, even in China.

Don't think I advocate more cars and buildings. It's just that the tiny crowded ball argument is wrong, and dangerous, as it can be used to build a nasty antihumanism.


>>> nice prose of your <<<

Thank you, but my prose is far from being nice. You should see my boss with a red pen around my prose. :-)

>>>but the tiny blue ball thing is bullshit<<<

Carl Sagan has another take on the matter. :-)


>>>Any plane on window seat will show you that the Earth is enormous and empty for most it's parts, even in China.

Don't think I advocate more cars and buildings. It's just that the tiny crowded ball argument is wrong, and dangerous, as it can be used to build a nasty antihumanism.<<<

I would argue that treating our resources as essentially endless because of the sheer size as compared to the individual fails to take into account that there are now 7 Billion people on this earth. Each and every one of them deserves a better life, they deserve to be able to have a luxurious bath, flush toilets with water, wash hands with water, eat processed foods which take a lot of water to make, wash their cars with water, drink pure water and at the end of the day consume around 315 litres of it. Of course, today not everyone lives like that except for wealthy countries (the statistic is based upon the US) but I think everyone wants a standard of life like that. If somehow, tomorrow 7 billion people started consuming water like that then we would drink up 2 205 000 000 000 litres of fresh water in a day, but the total possible water supply we can access (and this includes the glaciers) is only 3.5 × 10^19 litres...

That's quite an easy way to run out of water.

Now if you do the same with energy, with waste, with consumption and so on what you have is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. The way we live today just can't last. I think that you can solve this problem using technology, but its roots lie deep in our societies.

What's frightening over here is that there is no way out for us. Unlike our ancestors we simply can't burn and move on. The earth is where we have to make our stand. I really think that it's important for people to start taking the gravity of the situation seriously. We need solutions, and we need them fast. Our time is running out.

I think that there is no greater form of humanism than realizing that all of these people need to be saved from such an horrible end and devoting your entire life to creating a better future.


we would drink up 2 205 000 000 000 litres of fresh water in a day, but the total possible water supply we can access (and this includes the glaciers) is only 3.5 × 10^19 litres...

That's quite an easy way to run out of water.

Water doesn't vanish after it's used. Also, putting your first number in scientific notation helps put this in perspective: 2.2 x 10^12 . Seven orders of magnitude. Close to 15 000 0000 times as much.

That's not to say that work isn't needed to develop cheap recycling appliances, and to build water systems that recycle and reuse waste water rather than dumping it all into the environment, but it's not a very hard problem on the scale of things humanity can accomplish -- it mostly just requires more energy.

Energy will continue to be the limiting factor for a long time, and eventually (after essentially perfect recycling of all material civilization requires) the limit will be waste heat. But as others have mentioned, we have a whole solar system to use as well, and moving the highest heat processes to space would allow us to radiate it away without affecting the earth. Technology which is clearly within our reach would allow the earth to support trillions of humans -- admittedly at a more crowded level than I would prefer. :)


>>> Also, putting your first number in scientific notation helps put this in perspective: 2.2 x 10^12 . Seven orders of magnitude. Close to 15 000 0000 times as much. <<<

Hm, I made a big mistake in that comment. I should have added that we have access to this much, but the real catch is energy and how we are currently limited to tapping into it and the total resource we can access is X.

Thank you so much for pointing this out.

>>> it mostly just requires more energy <<<

Yeah as I argued in another comment, that really is the unmentioned catch over here. I should have elaborated upon that in the parent. Sorry.

Even if most of humanity doesn't reach that level of consumption, we will need to start unlocking some of this resource sooner or later. What really worries me is the amount of energy we need to unlock all of this water locked away in glaciers, ice caps and so on and then actually manage to process and distribute it for final use.

That's a really interesting but hard engineering problem.

>>> Technology which is clearly within our reach would allow the earth to support trillions of humans -- admittedly at a more crowded level than I would prefer. :) <<<

Can you please elaborate more?


<I>The earth is where we have to make our stand</i>

Why? We have a whole solar system right on on our front porch.

<I>but the total possible water supply we can access (and this includes the glaciers)</I>

Water doesn't just get used once and then disappear forever. Now, one could certainly make an argument against (say) sucking water out of the Oglalla Aquifer faster than it gets replenished, but that's a localized problem. We aren't going to "run out of water". Really.


>>> Why? We have a whole solar system right on on our front porch <<<

This is an honest question, not a rebuttal. How would you get those resources here, or us over there?

>>> Water doesn't just get used once and then disappear forever. Now, one could certainly make an argument against (say) sucking water out of the Oglalla Aquifer faster than it gets replenished, but that's a localized problem. We aren't going to "run out of water". Really. <<<

Well it would have been labored to add that although it would take a large amount of energy to purify water, or perhaps desalinate our oceans, the loop can be closed. The problem really is that it takes resources to keep that loop closed.

I think that all of our issues today boil down to how we convert energy to extract work, if we do manage to make something like fusion work then all of these concerns could be undermined with technology, but how do we get from here to there?


How would you get those resources here, or us over there?

There are a number of high-startup-cost, low-running-cost schemes for putting stuff in LEO, and as someone once said, LEO is halfway to anywhere in the solar system, energy-wise. Some possibilities are laser launching, space elevators, launch loops, and electromagnetic guns.

Some of these have much higher startup costs (to be effective for human launching, a gun would have to be very, very long and possibly cost the most of any of these, but shorter ones could launch material at very high acceleration with much less up-front cost), and some of them have awful failure modes (the space elevator could spread destruction in a narrow path wrapped all the way around the earth if it failed in the wrong way, via separation from the counterweight), but they're feasible.

The cheapest ways of getting to orbit, therefore, approach the cost in electricity of the task, which is less than 10 KwH per kilogram, or about $2USD per kilo. A recent flight from coast to coast cost more than that for me.


I've actually thought about this a bit, and I think that a really interesting design for a launch gun would be to encase the payload in a cover composed of diamagnetic material and then pump liquid nitrogen through channels made inside the material. The material would become perfectly diamagnetic and it will repel all fields, so you can easily levitate it and use it's tendency to go from a stronger to a weaker field to accelerate it.

I don't know for sure, but I think that the main advantage of doing something like this versus just putting a magnet over there, would be the fact that an accelerating magnet in such an assembly would generate huge amounts of back-emf and you would have to a) sink that and b) compensate for that.

However I don't know much about what other people's designs are, but I would like to change that. Do you know any resource where I can learn more from the scratch on how to build something like this?

Also where can I read more in detail about launch loops, laser launching, and space elevators?


I haven't paid much attention to these areas in a while, but I would start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-rocket_spacelaunch


I see a demographic problem if and only if Americans continue spreading their unhealthy way of life.


It's not about Americans spreading their unhealthy way of life. It's about non-Americans claiming that life (more or less) as their own.


Well, you know, I live in Chine since 8 years and, in some ways, there is a profound influence of the "American way of life", mostly through the channel of Holywood movies. The matter could be worse: Chinese have the weight on their side, they can't change so fast as to lose their identity, but still, they have an idea of what should be an happy life that is formatted by these f* movies (really hate then, sorry). For instance, they think everyone should ought to live in an appartement in a tower, own a car, drink canned soda, eat industrial food cooked in microwave, have only one overprotected child, work in suits, go shopping each Saturday, watch baseball on a gigantic TV on Sundays, etc.

They can't believe it when I tell them I am living in a cheap courtyard house, rides a bike to work, never drinks soda, eat home cooked food, never watches TV, know nothing about baseball, climbs mountains on the week-end. In fact, it is the way their parent and grand-parents lives (eg. my neighbors) and the younger generation don't want that, they want the "American way", the supposed "comfort". Maybe a personal taste, but I think Chinese way is better, for me, my family and even for the little big blue ball floating in the universe.

Don't get me wrong: I know US citizen do not live like described, and I tell my friends and colleagues as much as I can. But the problematic part is, again, those f* Hollywood movies that have too much worldwide influence. (I therefore welcome any other influence, Mangas, Bollywood, Hong-Kong kungfu, anything else is better.)


I smell a troll.


Ok, it may be "trollish" to say that the American way of life is unhealthy and bad for the environment and to express disapproval when this country spread its bad habits around the world. It is true nonetheless.

(Or maybe you think it is OK to eat 1kg of meat/day, own 1 car/person, drive 2h/day, eat burgers and watch TV?)

So facing this issue, two solutions:

1- Human being should be able to consume more, and therefore there need to be less of them.

2- Human being do not need to consume that much to be happy and, therefore, their demographics is not that much of an issue.

I let you choose.


Even if the resources were enormous, exponential growth would still have to level off sooner or later.


ask yourself how much land is required to support a single human for a year. mostly empty is how it must be, otherwise we've got problems.


"A small amount of resources" does not necessarily have direct correlation with square footage. Even if every part of the earth aside from Europe and NA were empty, there would still be a serious issue with respect to resource consumption.


Population growth has some worrying trends if you start thinking in historical time frames. If we continue to grow as is, until we reach some sort of natural barrier we double the population ever 50-60 years. What will the world look like with 25bn (100yrs) or 100bn (200yrs)? What will it look like @ 1 trillion (say 300- 400 yrs)? Somehwere between 50 & 500 years from now we may know the limit. That's not that long in historical terms and it will probably be a recognizable world. Most of the same countries & cultures will probably still exist. Elvis might still be popular.

If growth does stop what will stop it? Culture (ie middle class western Europe) or something "natural" like famine?


The population growth rate is decreasing (the average number of children per woman is down from 5 in the 1950s to 2.5 today) and in much of the industrialized world, it's already going down.

The population is still increasing, but much of it is no longer due to a high birthrate but due to an increase in lifespan.


Link: http://7billionactions.org/data



Read _Collapse_.


Now I certainly plan to. Thank you.


Nice writeup but it's easter, not eastern. If anything it's western.


Sorry I have dyslexia, I tend to get muddled up like that sometimes.


> However what they failed to realize was the inescapable fact that they were living on a small piece of land in the middle of a vast ocean.

Their first problem was that they and their palm trees were too big for the island. A big body size means a low population count, and that means that range of random fluctuations overlaps with zero: extinction. This is why island species evolve towards dwarfism: the Flores "hobbits", dwarf elephants, etc. Like many species that are seeded onto an island, they died out before they could evolve to meet the challenges.

The second problem is that humans are not built for a stable, hospitable situation. Our ability to adapt to change atrophies, so that an emergency becomes a catastrophe. (Look up "water empire".) We are built for constant warfare, plagues, droughts, floods, and so forth.

> I shudder to think what it must have been like to live in this world.

About like the sad story of Rhodesia, renamed Zimbabwe and destroyed as an exercise in social justice.

> Like the eastern islanders we have nowhere to go...

If we build big enough, soon enough, we get the inner solar system, whose resources make our current civilization look like a molecule of water in an ocean. Then we can take the gas giants as an afterthought, whose resources make the inner solar system look like a molecule of water in an ocean. Then we get the galaxy.


The problem lies in how will you define the other parameters over here.

First up is the question of defining that 1 KG itself and the configuration; how will we define the parameters of the copper wire? (edit: to clarify after reemrevnivek's excellent comment the configuration of the solenoid is important because the strength of the magnetic field generated is directly related to the configuration of the coil) We can't use the radius, length of the copper wire accurately because as it gets heated up it will expand not only longitudinally but radially as well.

Second, how will the magnetic field be measured to the precision needed? If you use induction of current in another coil then according to lenz law that will create a downward force on our coil leading to inaccurate measurements (I'm assuming that it will be constantly measured) , this means that the coil needs to be strictly constrained, by how do you constrain it without adding/rubbing material on to the surface of the copper wire?


I think that you could get a lot of mileage by selling unique trinkets. Imagine taking a Escher style moebius ring and creating an actual ring or a necklace out of it (imagine doing it with flat links to form the necklace, and they all have connections to one another at a varying gradient, so that you can create that moebius strip) [ interesting link to set you up http://www.cs.technion.ac.il/~gershon/EscherForReal/ ]

If you think about it then there are tons of amazing geometrical shapes out there that would make amazing trinkets, and why limit yourself to pure mathematics? Imagine creating a trinket that represents plasma captured in a magnetic bottle. That would be beautiful if you can get it just right.

This will be challenging, artistically, to pull it off (perhaps you can use a 3D printer), but if you do I want one. (yes, I have weakness for such trinkets)


They keep pounding the same misconceptions again and again in endless repetition, and I can't help but wonder, who hired these guns? (that's not to say that some of their arguments don't hold water, but they are going to incredible lengths to cast Google as a monopoly, why?)

The cynic in me doubts that the cause is a lack of understanding.


What if the child has a learning disability? What happens then?


Disabled pupils can have 'reasonable adjustments' to the administration of the test, given supporting evidence. Eg, for learning disabilities - extra time or breaks.

For the gory detail:



What if the child isn't a native English speaker?

What if teachers of younger students only teach to this test and ignore other important topics?


> What if the child isn't a native English speaker?

They will need to cram vocab. - as are their English speaking peers.

> What if teachers of younger students only teach to this test and ignore other important topics?

The teachers explicitly don't teach to this test, and would be sanctioned if they did such that all the other areas of the syllabus were slipping. It is up to the parents to arrange preparation one way or another.

Having said that, the school work does overlap - they start to have time limits on tests, and as always there is a strong emphasis on reading, comprehension and vocabulary. However, the particular mechanics and mindset of the 11+ are not covered.


Well I'm a non-native english speaker and I passed ... well ok, I'm 30 ;-))))))


I disagree, look at the options given to Skype employees [1], being in the valley doesn't magically mean that your safe from the dark side of the force.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/26/skypes-worthless-employee-s...


Skype was Private Equity, not normal VC/founder/team terms.

very rarely do founders fuck their employees over, relative to how employees are treated in most places. Founders vs. VCs or Founders vs. PE is more common, but founders at a late-stage company should be a lot more educated and resourced.

It's mainly at the idea to startup to series A stage where people are fairly universally honorable, at least among the top people.


The comments on the "how much did you earn as an early employee from an exit?" thread seem to indicate otherwise. Very few people ever saw their stock options amount to anything.


There are two factors in that thread. First, most companies never achieve a meaningfully successful exit (so those reports will be "my options amounted to nothing" and people will freely share that). Second, in the cases where they did, the employees who did well are somewhat less likely to be reading HN and (I surmise) vastly less likely to talk about it.

I had typed up my experiences over three exits in that thread, posted it and deleted it a few minutes later as it didn't add enough to the discussion relative to what it revealed about me.


You're getting into 'no true scotsman' territory here. Everyone in the film industry is very nice and decent as well, until you run into someone who isn't.


It's not about the attribute itself, but affirmation along that attribute.

It's the same conundrum facing parents of gifted kids, praising innate ability vs. hard work backfires in a spectacular way sooner or later and the child stops taking risks because they are afraid of being dumb.


I think that the hardest lesson to internalize over here is, "every no gets you closer to a yes". Most hackers thrive on finding, solving problems and getting the solution just right. Intractable problems are apparent at the surface and they can get shrugged upon, at least for a while. The trouble wit people is that it isn't obvious when they are intractable, so there isn't a way to know if it's your failure, or if it's a fact about the client. Sometimes the person just doesn't want/need your goods, and no amount of persuasion will budge their mind, but it isn't possible for the seller to know that, so it's easy to chalk it up as a failure.

I think that if one doesn't recognize this subtlety, it's easy to fall spiral into negativity and lose hope. Since we're social animals, this comes across to the customer and it further reduces the chances of closing a deal, thus creating a vicious cycle that's difficult to recover from.

So, if you're a startup founder, do yourself a favor. Get some chart paper and magic markers, and paste a giant sign saying "Fail. Learn. Iterate."

(BTW, to be clear the learn doesn't imply that it's your fault, it simply means extracting lessons from the experience)


I love what you're trying to do, but how will you monetize this? Will you pursue amazon based referrals for songs? (I'm guessing it won't add up unless you have scale) Or will you try to launch a "premium" service?


(note: I don't mean to be rude, but this comment has barely been up for 1 minute and I'm already being down-voted. Surely no one can read something this long this fast and down-vote even faster. I've tried to write a reasoned critique of the phenomena before me. It's not a political comment, but a logical one.)

Any constitution is a fine balance of power, a body like this which concentrates power outside of the constitution without carefully thought out checks and balances can be used to deliver the coup de grace to democracy. After all who guards the guards?

This will be extremely unpopular over here, but the citizens of any nation are responsible for corruption. Their leaders aren't alien beings who have descended from planet Z to rule upon their country. They were and are chosen from amongst them, and in a representative democracy it is they who choose them. You might argue that the vote itself is an ineffective tool, and you will be right, but it does offer us the opportunity to ruthlessly edit people from power. At the end it is the culture of a country that shapes a leader to a great deal. They are simply mirrors of society, but we seem to run away from that fact.

The same goes for bureaucrats and any other malaise that plagues society. They are from amongst us, and although the blame may be greater on some shoulders, it is borne by all of us.

The inherent assumption is that the people in this organization will be somehow pure, sans biases, and without malice. It makes me doubt this because human nature being human nature, sooner or later someone creative is going to come along and will convince people to side with him/her and play this unbalanced system to achieve control. It's not a matter of if, but when.

Of course, I might be wrong and this bill might be a carefully calculated with the calculus of power to be perfectly neutral, but I somehow doubt that given the sheer PR and the herd mentality that seems to surround this. For example the man portrayed as a Gandhian whipped drunks in his home town in the name of "social progress", how is that behavior Gandhian? (I'm not questioning if the behavior is right or wrong, I'm simply asking how can someone who whips people be called the modern Gandhi?)

I think that something rather interesting is going on over here, and that the true nature of this bill and the organization it will create will be apparent as time passes on.

I honestly hope that it's genuine, and it won't lead to a calculated attempt to gain power, but I wouldn't bet on it.


Even if the lokpal bill comes and goes, the impact has already gone far beyond the concept of an ombudsman.

For the first time in my memory, the urban middle class of India have been represented - as opposed to factions based on religion, caste, race and language. A new platform has been given due recognition - that of the growing, tax-paying, facebook-ing urban demographic which has never been able to dissolve its own lines of religion, caste, race and language.

This is a huge achievement in a country in which nearly every state is governed by a political party which is strictly local and more often than not ethnically and linguistically native. I am extremely optimistic that the next general elections (for the country's Prime Minister) will have corruption, infrastructure and education as some of the platforms rather than being right-wing, left-wing or secular.

I for one (as are many in India) am fearful about the lokpal - primarily because the actual people behind the Anna Hazaare campaign are "professional" non-profit organizations. I would much rather have e-governance as well as absolute and complete transparency on government functioning (for example, Estonia ??)


factions based on Race in India? I think you are getting carried away with your hyperbole!


Vague as the concept of race is, doesn't the northeast represent one?


He meant caste.


Let me try to give a perspective on the reality that is faced by most Indians. This is a general analysis and not a position on the Lokpal bill itself.

Corruption at the lower level of bureaucracy:

Corruption/graft is faced by people every day in common functions of their life. The market incentives are there to support graft (low salaries, a huge imbalance in supply and demand - contributed in part due to a very large Indian population, wide disparity in income distributions).

But consider that there are limited or no checks against corrupt officers. We got the Right to Information Act (RTI) recently due to civil activism. RTI enables you to get data from public offices. A lot of times this data is enough to point out instances of corruption. So you can point out corruption, but when you want somebody to act on it, its so far neigh impossible to see action. Police won't register your case easily, so a common man is left with very little avenue to pursue this further. RTI activists and whistleblowers experience a lot of hostility. 10 were murdered in 2010 alone for bringing to light scams and corruption cases.

There is a strong erosion of trust from Government and Public offices. The word correctly describing the situation is malaise. Folks are sick and tired of experiencing day to day exploitation. As with any typical malaise, it crept up, slowly and steadily, steeped into our systems.

The bill is seen as hope by a large section of the public as a first step towards fighting corruption. Hence the hundreds of thousands of people out on the street protesting. Peacefully. Not rioting.

<opinion> I too have concerns with regards to the policing of the Lokpal body. Or who will guard the guards. But strong public opinion and action on corruption is needed. </opinion>


There are checks and balances. The Lokpal will be supervised by the cabinet secretary and the election commission. Also, any case against a curropt Lokpal chairperson can be bought in court - and can be removed if found guilty. Its only independent of the government - who its supposed to keep a check on.

The Lokpal bill was initially introduced in the Indian parliament in 1968. 43 years ago. Many attempts were made to make it into a law - always unsuccessfully. Until Anna Hazare whipped the people into a frenzy, went on a fast and essentially blackmailed the parliament. That is why he is called a modern day Gandhi. He successfully used Gandhian techniques to achieve an impossible feat. Not because of some checkered instance from his past.

(Also, Gandhi recruited Indians to become soldiers during WW1 and fight for the British - going against his doctrine of non violence. No one is pure and nothing is black and white.)


The Indian leader Mayawati has already demanded that there should be reservation for SC/ST/OBC in Lokpal members.


If this continues, I dont see JLB being any effective in rooting out corruption. It will end up being just another layer of bureocracy.

Edit:added link


These kind of shits happens in politics in every country with some twist.

I had discussion with one of my friend in UK and stated his statement - "UK has faced riots for 15 days and India has peaceful movement for 15 days" earlier these statement used to be reverse.

Change always take time.


You are correct. Full agreement.


Have you read Lokpal bill?

First, the Lokpal deals only with the Judiciary part of the constitution while both Legislature and Executive parts will be untouched. So it's not an alternative constitution. Even within Judiciary it deals only with officials 'who are facing corruption charges'. In fact Lokpal will be weaker than an income tax officer. A corrupt Lokpal can be removed within two months by the parliament!

Second, no one is questioning the electorate system. But when it comes to an effective anti-corruption law, just saying "vote the right person in the next election" won't cut it in a country rifed with illiteracy, poverty and communism. We should be pragmatic instead of just sticking to textbook definition of democracy.

Third, Gandhian is not someone who behaves exactly like Gandhi. Anyone inspired by Gandhi's principles is a Gandhian. Nehru was called Gandhian even though he declared wars.


People also forge the Quit India movement which was Gandhi's proposal of getting the British out by any means possible: including violence.



I am not sure if you understand the complete situation. Presently, the body that looks into the corruption cases against politicians and other Govt. workers is directly under the control of Govt. (you see the conflict of interest). The idea of lokpal is more than 40 years old, which says that the person/body investigating these corruption cases should be an independent body and (at least theoretically) should not be under the control of those being investigated. I don't see any problem with having a Lokpal. Of course, the lokpal can be corrupt. But atleast a non-corrupt Lokpal can investigate freely. Whereas, right now investigating Polititians and Govt. works is nearly impossible.


Totally agree. It seems like a media driven phenomenon. Incompetence is a bigger problem than corruption in India. The systemic problems that face the society need ambition, will and technology. This solution is too simplistic for me to be taken seriously.


> Incompetence is a bigger problem than corruption in India. The systemic problems that face the society need ambition, will and technology.

This is the elephant in the room when it comes to India. There is just a huge amount of apathy amongst the people. A simple example is how much produce rots to waste as a result of poor transportation/refrigeration. There are so many processes crying out to be optimized.

As a US-born NRI, there are so many things that I find appalling that my family in India doesn't even notice. It's like they've been desensitized to all of these issues over the years to the point where they're not even really considered problems.

A lot of people believe the difference between India and China is that China's autocratic government allows them to modernize and improve their country much faster, but the truth is that democracy can be compatible with rapid modernization if the people are willing to work together. Even in China, the government is ruled by a large number of people - no one would say that Hu Jintao has a level of power even close to that of a dictator. The real difference is that the Chinese government has labored long and hard to improve living conditions for hundreds of millions of its citizens (though it has also brutally mistreated several million of them) while the Indian government has been sitting around twiddling its fingers.


Corruption directly results in inefficient systems.

Consider a road from A to B. Ideally you would want a strait line, but if someone owns land that would benefit from being near a road then you just bend the path a little and suddenly his land is worth more. As long as the person drawing that line has more to gain from bribes than an efficient road you are going to build a lot of odd looking roads. Taken to the extreme and you get roads that are less useful and more costly to build and maintain because they are longer.


Exactly. Why is it that the smaller national highways and a few of the biggest airports only got nationalized recently (i.e., the past 2 years)? It's most likely that that the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi temporarily broke the spell of apathetic stupor. (or perhaps this only applies to South India, in which case that would be sad yet telling, since South India is the home to most of India's IT sector.)

India's high population and smaller landmass (--> higher pop dens) requires innovative, planned, coordinated strategies to conserve resources. To say that India is a democracy does not mean that it is a meritocracy. It still seems to be more like a feudal-like hierarchy inherited from the British, which itself was usurped and adapted from the feudal monarchies before. Most post-colonial states wrestle with issues of being too top-down, despotic, nepotistic.

Laws are only really worth anything if they can be adjudicated and enforced. What good is a law that no one respects? Everything is all about institutions and what they do, so celebrating a law might be premature since it's only 1/3 of the entire end goal -- you need the judiciary and the executive on the same page and working, too.


According to the Lokpal bill 'incompetence is equal to corruption'. Any failure of executing a promised act can be brought to the courts.


Corruption exists for historical reasons and because the Govt has not had the spine to go after pilfered assets and corrupt officials as it was perceived as too big a problem.

Similar problem existed in Hong Kong and was solved using similar means as this bill.

The reflection argument only works when the people have visibility into the government machine, which did not exist until recently, with greater mass media, RTI and even youtube/facebook etc. Even people from villages are on these channels.

The janlokpal bill is as good an example of people shaping their government as anything else.


@GeneTraylor agreed. in fact fully agree. But you need to start from somewhere. I am seeing whole movement in couple of ways. 1. Awake lost politician that they can take citizen granted. Even citizen has shown that they are educated enough (because even more than 5 million people have participated across the country over last 12-15 days but not a single violence and public property damage as in other agitations happens in India)

2. Aware about law which is about to come. This is a big deal first time people are talking about laws in details and when it comes to implementation they know how to deal with it. (In India we have "Right to Information" but very less people use it because they not fully aware even it have the simplest structure.)

3. Interested in politics - This is the root problem in India. New generation which is so called better educated than their old one is not taking much interest in politic. These kind of movement make few good leaders as other movements.

As far as my knowledge it was a biggest non-political movement in India so far.


but the citizens of any nation are responsible for corruption. Their leaders aren't alien beings who have descended from planet Z to rule upon their country

I have been thinking about it for few weeks now and was somehow not convinced that by having an anti corruption bill passed would suddenly make significant changes.

This nytimes article from last month, "In Fight for Better India, Best to Look Within" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/world/asia/02iht-currents0... gives candid analysis of what is wrong and some way to fix it.


This will be extremely unpopular over here, but the citizens of any nation are responsible for corruption.

This isn't like pork-barrel spending where the voters care a lot about ending it but care more about protecting spending in their own district. Nor is it like American-style corruption where every voter understands that money buys influence, except in the case of their own congressmen, whom they believe to be honest people who are forced to take corporate money so they can survive in Washington and do some good. That kind of corruption flows both ways: the corrupt congressman uses his power to reel in undeserved favors and unnecessary spending for his constituents. It's a quid pro quo. Americans are conflicted. I'm sure Indians are similarly conflicted about the corruption that brings services or economic growth to their districts, but they are not conflicted about paying bribes or having public property appropriated by government officials. They are also not conflicted about corrupt relationships between corporations and politicians where the politicians' constituents are the ones who get screwed. This is not a problem of incentives. This is a problem of investigation and enforcement. Do you expect citizens to punish politicians themselves, vigilante-style, on the basis of rumors that have never been investigated?

The disruption to the constitutional balance of power is something I take seriously, but the accounts of what the Lokpal Bill actually does vary widely. From my understanding, the Lokpal resembles a special prosecutor's office. It has the power and resources to investigate, and it has the power to bring cases to the courts. When it is said that various government offices are "under the purview" of the Lokpal, it just means they can be investigated and prosecuted, just like any official in the United States government can be investigated (and almost all of them can be prosecuted.)

Now, I could have been misled about what the Lokpal actually is, but I have to say that its supporters have been more specific about the limits of its powers, while the detractors have been very vague and hand-wavy. They say it sets up a new branch of government and disrupts the separation of powers, but the same was said about the United States' independent counsel (the most famous of whom was Kenneth Starr:)


I think we take it for granted in the United States that if an official is breaking the law (and not just enjoying legal corruption) that some agency, probably more than one, will have the authority, the resources, and an official mandate to investigate the crime. As far as I know, that's all the Lokpal Bill is trying to accomplish. I don't see what's wrong with that.


More of Pseudo-Gandhian deeds of Anna Hazare. http://www.punemirror.in/article/2/2010101220101012233239336...


Anti-corruption bodies work well in countries with a strong history of rule of law and stable democracy, because there's a pool of incorruptibles to draw from, and the elites have a mutual interest in appointing them. Here in Australia we have a bunch of them at state level: ICAC, CCC, OPI etc.

Sometimes they turn out to harbour bad apples; but eventually those people too are discovered and removed. Recently a former manager in the National Crime Commission (a powerful anti-organised crime body) was charged, tried, convicted and imprisoned for colluding with criminals to import drugs.

The problem might be that the people with the power to appoint the guards are themselves only going to appoint their friends. It's a chicken and egg dilemma, but worth struggling with. Eventually there's a tipping point where corruption becomes the abnormality and everyone accepts independent arbitration. It can unleash enormous prosperity, which Indians deserve as much as anyone.



Applications are open for YC Summer 2015

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Y Combinator | Apply | Contact